Cat and mouse game cannot continue
Six months ago, on January 27, The Times had commented editorially that “from a purely political and moral viewpoint it is evident that the government is far from being in a position to say it is business as usual”.
That comment was made the day after a vote in Parliament on a motion of no confidence in the government saw a tie with 34 for and 34 against. It was defeated only thanks to the Speaker’s casting vote.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi subsequently decided to seek a vote of confidence from within the Nationalist Party he leads. Of course, he was overwhelmingly confirmed as party leader but it was evident that the result of the general council’s vote did not reflect the real situation.
The internal dissent within the party was already very evident then and, in fact, The Times had noted that such dissent went beyond the vociferous Franco Debono. “How Dr Gonzi handles business in the House and deals with Dr Debono and other dissenters are now more crucial than ever,” The Times said in an editorial on February 27.
The cat and mouse game continued and Dr Gonzi and his government were embarrassed again on June 4 when Dr Debono voted on a vote of censure moved by the opposition and which led to the resignation of Home Affairs Minister, Carm Mifsud Bonnici who, until early January, was also responsible for justice.
This time, Dr Gonzi called for a vote of confidence in the House, which he won. Prior to the vote, he declared he wanted “a clear vote to know the government has the majority to permit it to move ahead with stability”.
The day after Parliament expressed confidence in the government, The Times asked: “Does Dr Gonzi really believe, with hand on heart, that it is now plain sailing and that he and his government can move ahead, business as usual?”
The answer came on Monday when Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando voted with the opposition on a motion calling for the resignation of Malta’s Permanent Representative to the European Union, Richard Cachia Caruana. As if that were not enough, another Nationalist MP, Jesmond Mugliette, abstained.
It proves, if proof were ever needed, that the dissent within the Nationalist Parliamentary Group is not only limited to Dr Debono. Surely, Dr Gonzi must have been aware of this. Is that what he meant when, earlier this month, he declared that he planned to remain in office until his term expires “as long as the decision is in my hands”? Soon after the vote on Monday night, he admitted he was surprised at the outcome because “we had the full support of the Parliamentary Group”.
Of course, it depends what he means by “the full support”. Was such support understood or was it gauged through a headcount? If there was a headcount why did the dissenters not speak up? If it was understood, what led to the party drawing such a conclusion?
While Dr Gonzi spoke of “the full support of the Parliamentary Group”, Mr Cachia Caruana noted in his resignation letter that “it was a fait accompli, with the outcome assured even before the motion was presented”.
It is very evident now that the situation within the PN and, more specifically, within its Parliamentary Group is far from rosy. Order must be restored for the good of the party itself but, more importantly, for the good of the country.
So, stop the game of cat and mouse and move to an election... soonest.